Rokas Giedraitis: ‘I can see myself playing in the NBA and having a meaningful role’

At 26, Lithuanian guard Rokas Giedraitis has become a Euro sensation this season playing with Alba Berlin. We recently spoke with him about his successful year and how NBA teams could make use of his offensive skills.

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You’ve had a breakout season leading your team to the German Cup and the Eurocup finals. What are you most proud of so far?

Rokas Giedraitis: It was my first season outside of Lithuania and so far it has actually exceeded any expectations I had. It was the right move, I feel very comfortable in Alba Berlin, I feel like I have improved as a player and my confidence has grown so much. We haven’t been able to win a title yet but I hope we can finish the season doing it.

What have you learned from those two defeats in the Cup and the Eurocup that will help you towards the end of the season trying to win the German League?

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RG: We are a very young team, compared to Valencia, for example. We lacked a lot of experience, this comes from playing in these type of games. I think that is the biggest takeaway from those defeats, to gain experience and be able to play with more confidence and composure, both as a team and individually.

Head coach Aito Garcia Reneses has a great amount of experience having coached some of the best talents in European basketball history. In which ways has he helped you develop your game and leadership on the court?

RG: The biggest thing with coach Aito is that he lets you play, he looks for ways to take the best out of you. I think personally his style of basketball fits perfect with how I play and that’s why it has been such a good match so far. You can feel the trust from him and you know that he will not punish mistakes as long as you are doing what you are supposed to do on the court.

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What is the aspect of your game that you have improved the most this season?

RG: I think I have been able to become a more consistent three-point shooter, to be able to read the game better, also to improve defensively. I have very smart teammates and I have learned from them ways to be more effective and also efficient on the court.

You’ll be 27 this summer. Players like Dairis Bertans made the jump during this season… Are you open to trying to make it to the NBA?

RG: I am right now focused on finishing the season as well as possible and hopefully win the BBL title. But yes, I am definitely open to it. Last summer there was some interest from some NBA teams in me and it’s obviously a dream of mine to one day play there.

The last three seasons you’re shooting more three-pointers than two-pointers, and being very effective at it. Which role do you think you could have if you signed for an NBA team?

RG: Well, knowing that the NBA is the highest level of basketball and having a great deal of respect for it, I think that my style translates very well. I can shoot the three-point shot efficiently, I am very comfortable in the open court and transition game and I have good size for the shooting guard and small forward positions. I think I can definitely play there.

Which position do you think you would be more comfortable if you went there?

RG: I think I could play both shooting guard and small forward.

You can run and shoot threes on transition. Mavericks rookie sensation Luka Doncic said that scoring in the NBA has been easier for him than when he played with the 10-time Euroleague champion Real Madrid. Does that make you optimistic about being successful if you played in the NBA?

RG: In these last few seasons, there have been a lot of players making the jump from Europe to the NBA, not necessarily from Euroleague but also from other competitions. That makes me feel confident that I would be able to make an impact at that level. Doncic is a one of a kind type of player, he can score anywhere… but I can see myself playing there and having a meaningful role.

You signed a three-year deal with Alba Berlin last summer. Are the contract terms still the same as when you signed?

RG: Yes. I signed a three-year contract in the summer of 2018 and I have an opt-out clause if I get an NBA offer.

Has any NBA team showed interest or willing to talk with your agents this summer?

RG: Like I said before, I am focused on finishing the season as well as possible and helping Alba Berlin win. There were concrete talks last season with one NBA team and I know from my agents that there are teams that are showing interest this season. If the right opportunity comes by, I would definitely be open to it.

If you get an NBA offer, in which conditions would you be willing to accept it?

RG: It would have to be the right situation, right fit for me on a professional and personal level as well as a solid proposal. I have a great situation here that has helped me get to where I am now and I want to keep growing as a basketball player.

Who’s the NBA player that you think has a similar game to yours?

RG: Let basketball people and fans answer this question.

Who was your idol, your favorite player as a kid?

RG: Mindaugas Zukauskas because I knew him personally and of course – my father Robertas Giedraitis. My idol from the NBA was Michael Jordan, as for most of us.

Who’s your current favorite NBA player?

RG: Giannis Antetokounmpo because of his versatility.

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